The Pacific League’s ‘powerhouses’, the SOFTBANK Hawks, have fallen away from the top of the table over the past two years. Last season, they were in first place before falling to the fifth-placed Chiba Lotte Marines in the final of the pennant race. The Oryx, who leapfrogged SoftBank for the top spot, defeated Central League champions Yakult Swallows to top the Japan Series. It was the first time they had lifted the trophy in 26 years since 1996, when ‘legend’ Ichiro Suzuki played for them.
SoftBank has been crowned Japan Series champions seven times in the 10-year period from 2011 to 2020. It won the top spot for four consecutive years from 2017 to 2020.
After struggling in the last two years, SoftBank has made a major reinforcement. They acquired outfielder Gensuke Kondo from the Nippon Ham Fighters for a record-breaking sum. He was the No. 2 hitter for Japan at the last World Baseball Classic (WBC).
7 years, 5 billion yen. Several teams, including his former club Nippon Ham, were in the running to sign him, but SoftBank couldn’t beat them. SoftBank boasts more financial power than Yomiuri.
It also signed former Major League Baseball reliever Roberto Osuna for an annual salary of 650 million yen. That’s the same amount as Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is the highest-paid player in Nippon Professional Baseball this year. Osuna joined Chiba Lotte during last year’s season, posting a 4-1 record, nine holds, 10 saves, and a 0.91 ERA. Unsurprisingly, Chiba Lotte wanted to re-sign him, but they couldn’t compete with SoftBank.
SoftBank also signed right-hander Kohei Aihara, who returned from Major League Baseball, for three years and 1.2 billion yen. Mei.
온라인바카라Orix left-hander Miyagi pitched eight innings of one-run ball against SoftBank on the 16th. The Oryx won 2-1 in 10 extra innings. Photo credit: Orix Buffaloes SNS
The team was looking to fill the void left by the departure of ace Senga Godai (New York Mets) to the lower leagues.
The team also recently signed Cuban Alfredo Despaigne, a long-time SoftBank slugger. The hard-hitting slugger, who hit 184 home runs in nine years in Japan until last year, is 37 years old. The team also brought in foreign batters who hadn’t signed new contracts in order to improve their batting slump.
SoftBank, which is in a title race with the Orix and Chiba Lotte, is in a deep hole at the end of the first half. They have lost eight straight games for the first time in 25 years since 1998.
On the 16th, they played the Orix at the Fukuoka Dome. In the 10th inning of extra innings with the score tied 1-1, he gave up the game-winning home run to the Orix’s Venezuelan No. 4 hitter, Leandro Cedillo.
Osuna was relieved by Yuki Matsumoto to start the 10th inning, but was hit by a leadoff single. In the bottom of the 10th inning, SoftBank finished the offence with three batters.
Prior to this game, SoftBank had been strong in extra innings. They had a 6-2 record in eight extra-inning games.
They have lost eight straight since 8 July against the Rakuten Eagles. They have scored a total of 15 points in that span. Four games ended with one run. That’s a serious hole, even for a two-hitter.
SoftBank took the lead in the top of the first inning against Orix left-hander Hiroya Miyagi. Two batters later, No. 3 Kondo hit a double to centre field. Yuki Yanagita, No. 4, followed with a single to left field to score a run. That would be the only run of the game.
Closer Osuna was signed by SoftBank last winter for an annual salary of 650 million yen. SportsNippon Headquarters Partnership
The lead didn’t last long. In the top of the second, Oryx leadoff hitter Yuma Mune, No. 6, took a high fastball (145 kilometres per hour) from SoftBank starter Nao Higashihama for a solo home run. 1-1. The Orix had four hits on the day, two of them home runs.
SoftBank went scoreless in the bottom of the eighth with two outs. No. 3 Kondo struck out swinging on a 122-pitch fastball (146 km/h) up the middle from Miyagi.
Three strikes were called on the ball at 3B. SoftBank manager Hiroshi Fujimoto was unhappy with the umpire’s strike call after the game. He argued that a low, outside fastball from left-hander Gondo at 3B1S was a ball.
The gap between the first-place Oryx and third-place SoftBank has widened to 4.5 games.